Soldier runs Boston Marathon in Afghanistan for Team Hoyt’s charity

Story by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Public Affairs NCO

. FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan—On the horizon, the tall mountains of southern Afghanistan kept watch on April 16, 2012 as Capt. Varinka Ensminger, an officer with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 ran quickly across the rugged, dusty gravel. For Ensminger, a native of Mount Olive, N.J., and also a Lexington, Ky. police officer at home, it wasn’t a question of why she was running, but who she was running for.

Please click HERE to see all the photos of Capt Ensminger’s race.

Ensminger, a 31-year-old who’s been running since the age of 10, ran to help raise money for the Team Hoyt’s Annual Boston Marathon fundraiser, running a total of 26.2 miles. Not able to run the Boston Marathon in person this year due to her deployment with ADT 4, Ensminger took time from her busy schedule as an officer on the ADT mission to train for and complete the marathon from Afghanistan.

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Capt. Varinka Ensminger smiles during military training in southern Afghanistan on March 10, 2012. Ensminger ran the Boston Marathon from Afghanistan to help raise money as a member of the Team Hoyt Charity on April 16, 2012. The 31-year-old Lexington, Ky. resident chose not to let her deployment with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 stop her from helping raise money for a good cause. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

Ensminger had help from various supporters throughout the ADT and other units on FOB Pasab cheering her on, handing out drinks, and even running the same route as her, though shorter distances, to provide encouragement. By the end of her run, Ensminger had completed the grueling trek in the hot, dusty terrain in a respectable 3 hours and 43 minutes.

“It’s the Boston Marathon,” Ensminger exclaimed. “And I’ve always had compassion for folks that aren’t able to compete because of some type of either medical condition or disability. That’s how I linked up with Dick and Rick (Hoyt). I’ve read some of their books and used it as motivation for myself that, you know, whenever I can’t or don’t think I’m able to do something, I always look at them and think how they always find the will within themselves to do so.”

The inspirational story of Dick Hoyt and his son Rick can be found on the team’s website at: http://www.teamhoyt.com/about/index.html.

“This year, I knew the deployment was coming up, so I had to figure out what I was going to do to still stay in contact,” Ensminger said. “So I’m involved in all their emails…I usually send kind of pow-wow chants to them or motivation or offer advice about injuries and training.”

“As motivation, I decided I’d tell them how I’d been running through the deployment, the different locations I’d been, and trying to give kind of that spark,” Ensminger said. “Even though we’re far apart…I’ll be with them in spirit across the finish line.”

Being a member of Team Hoyt’s assembly of world-class runners has come with some pressures, according to Ensminger. She spoke fondly and seemed slightly star struck when mentioning one specific team member who is the only woman to ever win three consecutive Boston Marathons.

“Uda Pipping is like a huge, renowned, world famous athlete, so I’m in her shadow,” Ensminger said excitedly. “But I love it because she treats me like a normal person…like I’m at her level even though we’re light years apart.”

Stationed on a small base in the Afghan countryside, running options are fairly limited for Ensminger. For her run, Ensminger reached the required 26.2 miles running across FOB Pasab’s rocky terrain.

“There’s a 1.89 mile loop that I’ve just been running with a couple running partners here. Just on training runs, if darkness hits, I go back inside and finish up the distance on the treadmill,” Ensminger explained.

“I love to run outside, so the fact that I’m logging more miles on treadmill (during training) is because it’s so hard to see in the dark with the ground holes and the speed bumps and everything. I really don’t like the treadmill, but I’ve embraced the love-hate relationship and the suck of it,” Ensminger noted.

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Capt. Varinka Ensminger runs the Boston Marathon from Afghanistan to help raise money as a member of the Team Hoyt Charity on April 16, 2012. The 31-year-old Lexington, Ky. resident chose not to let her deployment with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 stop her from helping raise money for a good cause. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

Aside from helping raise money for a good cause, Ensminger hoped her running also helped inspire her fellow service members.

“Personally, I hope that it motivates other folks to kind of keep on track here or find something mentally to get through the deployment,” Ensminger said. “If they’ve got a goal, make sure they still stay on track and achieve it…for me, it’s still being a part of the team no matter where you are geographically. You’re still part of it.”

Ensminger has found additional motivation in her training partner, Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Dunn of Lexington, Ky.

“I think the really great part is that I’m out here with my battle buddy Crystal, and she’s very supportive. She’ll stay at the gym for an hour, an hour and a half, sometimes two hours with me, which she wasn’t normally accustomed to. From that, she’s really embraced running,” Ensminger said.

On the day of the big run, Dunn even came out to run 10 miles in support of Ensminger’s effort.

“For me, that’s extra motivation. Because I know she’s sacrificing herself, sticking out these long hours in the gym. I’ve noticed the positive changes in her…she’s really developed as a runner and she’s kind of set some goals where she maybe normally wouldn’t have, so that makes me happy,” Ensminger added.

“We go to the gym…it’s just when she’s (Ensminger’s) running 16 miles, I figure I can at least run 6 or 8 or 10,” Dunn explained.

“She’s (Ensminger’s) been running like 50 miles (per week) for the last couple of weeks,” Dunn said. “She’s a big advocate for runners and people trying to stay active. It’s a big part of her life just because of her lifestyle, and being able to be a part of that and help someone else… it’s just very fitting, very rewarding for her.”

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